Is this fierce looking creature with bright red and green feathers a bird or a dinosaur? Set into a cavity, behind a glass panel is a life sized reconstruction of a turkey-sized dinosaur called Caudipteryx zoui.
This Caudipteryx looks like it is on a mission – its bald, red head is turned so that its beady yellow eyes glare through the window; beak is open displaying a grey and red tongue. Its neck is extended showing off the short, bright green feathers along the back of its neck and the very fine, 10cm long, gold coloured feathers that make a collar. The legs and body are covered with short, shiny, emerald green feathers. In a remarkable display the 20cm long lime green feathers with red tips which are placed along its short, skinny front limbs or arms are fanned out. Small, fiery red feathers are set closely along its tail– and the 30cm long, dark green feathers which extend from the tip of the tail, which give the species its name are also fanned out like an Indian chief’s headdress.
This bird-like dinosaur, which could not fly, is based on fossils from the early Cretaceous period, 130-125 million years ago found in China. Caudipteryx means “tail wing” and refers to the long tail feathers. Caudipteryx belongs to a group of theropod dinosaurs call – the same group in which modern birds belong. Many of the characteristics of early and modern birds appeared first in theropod dinosaurs.